The racial injustice that continues to plague the United States couldn't be a clearer challenge to the country's idea of itself as a liberal and democratic society, where all citizens have a chance at a decent life. Moreover, it raises deep questions about the adequacy of our political ideas, particularly liberal political theory, to guide us out of the quagmire of inequality. So what does justice demand in response? What must a liberal society do to address the legacies of its past, and how should we aim to reconceive liberalism in order to do so?
In this book, Andrew Valls considers two solutions, one posed from the political right and one from the left. From the right is the idea that norms of equal treatment require that race be treated as irrelevant--in other words, that public policy and political institutions be race-blind. From the left is the idea that race-conscious policies are temporary, and are justifiable insofar as they promote diversity. This book takes issue with both of these sets of views, and therefore with the constricted ways in which racial justice is debated in the United States today. Valls argues that liberal theory permits, and in some cases requires, race-conscious policies and institutional arrangements in the pursuit of racial equality. In doing so, he aims to do two things: first, to reorient the terms of racial justice and, secondly, to make liberal theory confront its tendency to ignore race in favor of an underspecified commitment to multiculturalism. He argues that the insistence that race-conscious policies be temporary is harmful to the cause of racial justice, defends black-dominated institutions and communities as a viable alternative to integration, and argues against the tendency to subsume claims for racial justice, particularly as they regard African Americans, under more general arguments for diversity.